December 19, 2020

The realm of the Aztec, the highlands of Mexico is almost inextricably linked to the name of Hernando Cortés.

An incredibly dangerous man

 In 1519, he sailed from Cuba with a fleet of eleven ships, some six hundred men, and he had scarce highly prized horses. Probingly he proceeded along the Yucatán’s gulf coast to where Mayan influence waned and Aztec dominion began, here he made base camp and called it Veracruz, by which it is still called.

Here to the Spaniards great astonishment, they were met by emissaries of the Aztec ruler that bore magnificent gifts. An eyewitness to the event, Bernal Diaz del Castillo, said that the gifts included a “wheel like the sun, as big as a cartwheel, with many sorts of pictures on it. The whole of it of fine gold, a wonderful thing to behold!”

I am consistantly wowed by this thing.

Other items included an even larger wheel made of silver, a helmet filled to the brim with grains of gold, and a headdress of the rare quetzal bird. A relic that now resides at Vienna’s Museum Für Vὄlkerkunde.   The gifts these ambassadors explained were from their ruler, Moctezuma to the divine Quetzal Coatl, the “Plumed Serpent” god of the Aztecs. The people’s great benefactor who was forced long ago to leave the land of the Aztec by the God of War. He with some followers had sailed from Yucatán’s gulf coast eastward. He had promised to return on the day of his birth in the year 1 Reed. The Aztec calendar has itself completing a cycle every 52 years; therefore, the expected date of his return by the Christian calendar could only be 1363, 1415, 1467, and 1519, precisely the year Cortés appeared. It was generally accepted that Cortés general appearance seemed to match the ancient prophesied return.

Moctezuma’s gifts were not casually selected, they were in fact, very symbolic in that gold was a divine metal belonging only to the gods. This of course echoes what the King James Version of the Bible says in Haggai 2:8 “The siluer (silver) is mine, saith the lord of hosts and, the gold is mine declares the lord of hosts”. It is extremely doubtful if the Spaniards grasped the symbolism, if they did, they certainly did not respect it. The only thing that the Spaniards saw was proof of the vast riches that existed in the Aztec realm.

These extraordinary artifacts arrived in Seville from Mexico on December 9, 1519. King Charles I the grandson of Ferdinand, sovereign of other European lands as Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire was in Flanders at the time, the treasure ship was sent to Brussels to be met by the Emperor. The painter and artist Albrecht Dὔrer who saw the golden hoard wrote, “I have never seen in all my days what so rejoiced my heart as these things. For I saw among them amazing artistic objects and I marveled over the subtle ingenuity of the men in these distant lands. Indeed I cannot say enough about the things which were there before me”. Despite the unique artistic, cultural, religious, and even historical value that “these things” had, to the emperor, they represented only a means to pay for his internal struggles (resurrection), and external wars. Charles ordered that immediately upon arrival, all future shipments were to be melted down at once and cast as bullion.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Cortés adopted the same methods. He advanced cautiously through whatever resistance he encountered, overcoming it by force of superior arms; or by diplomacy laced with treachery. November of 1519 saw him reach Tenochtitlán – Mexico City. It was situated in the middle of a lake, reachable by well thought out easily defensible causeways. Moctezuma still somewhat on the fence whether or not the Spaniards were truly their returned gods, met Cortés. Only Moctezuma wore sandals, the other Aztec nobles wore bare feet to honor who might be their returned gods. Moctezuma made the Spaniards welcome and was rewarded with treachery. He was taken prisoner in his own home, and the Aztec were forced to pay a king’s ransom for his release. That particular boatload of ransomed gold was intercepted by the French, which precipitated a war. Cortés had meant to leave Moctezuma on his throne as a puppet king, however his second in command Fernando de la Orticia lost patience and ordered the massacre of the Aztec nobility. In the chaos that ensued, Moctezuma was killed and the Spaniards suffered heavy casualties as they retreated from the city. By August 1521, Spanish rule was irrevocably imposed on the Aztec empire. Mexico though conquered and raped of its easily available gold was clearly not the biblical land of Havilah.

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